The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off their best weekend of the 2019-20 NBA season, picking up back-to-back wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers.
Davis was his normal, outstanding self on both ends of the floor, but it was James who really set the tone, particularly in the win over the Clippers. James spent much of game guarding Kawhi Leonard and was everywhere, taking charges, and diving on the floor for loose balls. That stood out to his teammates.
“He didn’t get rewarded for those plays, but for me, that didn’t go unnoticed,” Lakers backup point guard Rajon Rondo told ESPN. “He tried to take a charge. Then he’s down on the court getting the loose ball.
Rondo would continue on, saying that James’ hustle is contagious to the rest of the team:
“When you got the oldest guy on the team doing that, everybody else is going to follow. The plays he makes are contagious.”
It has a very different impact when the leader of the team isn’t just telling his teammates what to do, but is setting the example himself. James has been that type of leader this season and the rest of the Lakers have fallen in line, which is why they have been so successful.
Defense was the story for the Lakers in both of their weekend games as the Clippers and Bucks — who average 119 and 116 points respectively — were held to just 103 points each. It was James who took on the defensive challenge, spending a lot of time on both Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Most All-Star players tend to slack off on defense these days and in the last couple of seasons, James was no exception, but that has changed this year.
James’ effort, energy, and communication on defense has been outstanding this season and when the team’s best player is working that hard, the rest of the team has no excuse as Rondo noted. The defense is what will carry them to winning the 2020 NBA Finals and James continuing to give that level of effort could be the difference.